Anna Nicole (ROH, 16 September 2014)
Hurrah for my first effort at getting down with live contemporary opera. But why Anna Nicole out of everything else? Well, there’s the vaguely intellectual attraction of seeing an opera written about one of our more famous contemporaries. Then there’s the titty jokes. So now might be a good time to stop reading if you’re of finer taste…
Anna Nicole: Eva-Maria Westbroek
Virgie: Susan Bickley
Shelley: Loré Lixenberg
The Lawyer Stern: Rod Gilfry
Old Man Marshall: Alan Oke
Blossom: Allison Cook
Doctor Yes: Andrew Rees
Larry King: Peter Hoare
Aunt Kay: Rebecca de Pont Davies
Billy: Grant Doyle
Mayor of Mexia: Wynne Evans
Deputy Mayor: Damian Thantrey
Daddy Hogan: Jeremy White
Trucker: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts
Runner: ZhengZhong Zhou
Teenage Daniel: Jason Broderick
Young Daniel: Archie Hunter
Lap Dancers: Yvonne Barclay, Katy Batho, Amanda Floyd, Amy Catt
Pole Dancers: Charlie Avella, Gemma McFarlane-Edmond, Kirsty Wone
Dancers: Hester Montgomery Campbell, Katy Lowenhoff, Rosie Rowlands
Meat Rack Girls: Kiera Lyness, Bernadette Lord, Louise Armit, Andrea Hazell
Patron: Andrew O’Connor
Gentleman: Andrew O’Connor
Onstage Band: Ian Thomas (Drummer), Laurence Cottle (Bass Guitarist), John Parricelli (Guitarist)
Conductor: Antonio Pappano | Chorus and Orchestra of the ROH
Director: Richard Jones
But should you even be reading about Anna Nicole if you’ve delicate senses? I mean the woman liked nodding dogs and plastic flamingos. Luckily, I appreciate low-brow humour. Richard Thomas’ libretto is thus up my alley, to the point where I’m considering checking out his Jerry Springer.
I’ll be up front with you: the expletive-happy libretto is the best part. It takes the piss out of everything, from small shitty towns to soul-sucking big cities, the small breasted masses and dumb blondes with big titties. I wonder what Mozart or Verdi could’ve come up with if their librettists wrote choruses about “bazookas”. I bet Mozart would’ve loved writing an opera about voluptuous blondes and farting old suitors. In fact that’s kinda what Die Entfuhrung is about, eh? Verdi might’ve surprisingly come down on the side of bra burners, out of an innate love for revolution. I can already see the Anvil chorus going down that route.
The music is samey in that sort of generic Broadway way except the vocal parts are made operatic. Anna Nicole’s part seems the most varied, as it should be. There are a few moments where EMW was allowed to show some vocal artistry – a bit of coloratura, a bit of octave jumping. The other character with a bit of memorable vocals is Old Man Marshall II. Both Oke and EMW are swimming with their stuff. Gilfry would probably be interesting, too, if he had something to sink his teeth in. Alas, the only sinking of teeth was done by the title character and the victims were burgers.
The production is appropriately tongue in cheek = gaudy to the max (Old Man Marshall is sporting a gold tracksuit, Anna Nicole rocks a range of heinously tasteless pink outfits), the changes of scenes quick, musical theatre-like. It did remind me a lot of The Book of Mormon, one of my few musical theatre outings. The crowd was also a lot more West End than usual. The lady next to me confided that this was her first time at the opera and that she was enjoying herself. I encouraged her to visit again.
For my £15 I was entertained throughout1 and EMW did do a great job with the character such as it was. As the second act progressed and things turned sour there was a sort of character progression. The music, alas, remained much the same. The libretto, again, came to the rescue and I was moved a bit. Would I see it again? Nah. Am I more up for live contemporary opera? I think so.
- I paid £41 (with discount) for The Book of Mormon and the singers were clearly inferior, so bargain! ↩